This time last year, we dodged a major bullet when Malmo knocked the Ibrox club out of the Champions League. It would have hit us with full force had they gotten through. Everything was lined up against us, but the round missed us by a hair.
Now similar projectiles are being lobbed at Ibrox, and I will be amazed if they can dodge them. The Belgians already have a two goal advantage, and our rivals will struggle to overturn that, especially as I think their opponents will score in their away tie.
Even if Ibrox squeezes through, PSV or Monaco lies in wait next, and I don’t think they’ll go through against either of those teams. The odds are against them, and if the bullet hits them then they will be counting the cost of it for months.
This is all to do with the domestic fixture list, and how it is impacted by a scenario where we’re in the Champions League and they are in the Europa League.
Their problems are compounded by the odd vagaries of the schedule, which we had to navigate last season and which this site highlighted. We had one advantage. Both clubs played their European games on the same day. That won’t be the case this year.
They are heading for a perfect storm. It will be glorious to watch the reaction of their supporters when the full scale of this sinks in.
The scenario we’re looking at, should they fail to overturn that 2-0 deficit, is one where we play Tuesdays and Wednesdays and they play Thursdays. The knock-on effect of that, as we know, is that we will play our league games on the Saturday whilst they play on the Sunday. Which means that if we keep winning they will be constantly chasing us.
And it’s worse than that, because, of course, they play the toughest run of fixtures in the first quarter of the season, right slap back amidst those European games … and cup competition football will be thrown into the mix for good measure.
What we do know is that their first match-day in the Europa League groups will be on 8 September. They will have played us, at Celtic Park, on the 3rd. Their next league game is also away, pencilled in, right now, for two days after their European tie, but which will most definitely be moved to the Sunday. It’s at Pittodrie, against Aberdeen.
Their next Europa League match-day is a week after the first, on the 15th. At least they are at home in the league after that, but it’s against Dundee Utd. Which is also going to be moved to the Sunday. So right there are two potentially lethal league games, following on from Celtic Park, and amidst European games at least one of which will be away from home.
Their third European match-day is on 6 October. Just five days prior to that game, and it might already be a must-win match, they will have visited Tynecastle. Their weekend fixture, just days later, is against St Mirren at home … that’s a Sunday game now, for sure.
Match-day four in Europe is 13 October. Again, they’ve got an away game in the league which will almost certainly be moved to the Sunday, at Motherwell.
European match-day five takes place on 27 October. They are at home on 29 October, but that’s as good as it gets. That’s going to be a Sunday game as well … against Aberdeen again.
European match-day six will be 3 November, right after the Aberdeen game. They are, once again, away just days later, at St Johnstone.
That fixture list is nightmarish. I would not want it for us, especially not when every match follows on from a day in which our rivals would have played already and probably won. This is the worst of all possible worlds for them, and it is heading towards their club at high speed.
The media hasn’t twigged yet, nor are their fans openly discussing it … but this is very real, and very possible, and they are going to struggle to avoid it.